The best known Greek New Year’s traditions
There are many Greek New Year’s traditions that have been passed down through the centuries.
Without a doubt the best known New Year’s tradition is that of the vasilopita, with families all over the country enjoying this cake while searching for the lucky recipient of the hidden coin. According to tradition, when Vasilios the Great was the bishop in Asia Minor’s Kesaria, the local prefect wanted to enter the city and plunder it.
Vasilios collected the richest people’s valuables so as to prevent general looting. When the prefect changed his mind, Saint Vasilios ordered that cakes should be baked and riches be hidden in them and given out to the poorest members of the community.
The symbolism behind this tale transformed it into a national tradition, which we celebrate on his name day on the first of January each year.
“Podariko” means choosing the person you want to be the first to walk into your house on the first of January. People choose someone they feel will bring them good luck and often children are chosen for this job as they are considered pure and innocent.
Pomegranates are a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck. In many places around the country, but especially in the Peloponnese, after the service on New Year’s Eve, it is the custom to smash one on the threshold of the house ensuring it breaks, to bring good luck and wish friends and family a happy new year. It is customary to then walk into the home, right foot first, so the new year will be filled with good fortune.
Kremmida (Scilla maritima) is a Greek plant which resembles a giant onion. Animals don’t eat it as it has a poisonous substance that causes skin irritation. Even if you pull it out of the ground and hang it up, it continues to sprout leaves and flowers. That’s why folklore has it that the kremmida has a unique life force and therefore brings luck to the homes it hangs in. This is an ancient good luck charm, dating back to the 6th century B.C.
«Spordima» on the island of Thasos
In Thasos, families sit around the fireplace and throw olive tree leaves in it. They all make a silent wish and the person whose leaf curls around the most in the flames, is the winner.
«Kolonies», a tradition from the Eptanisa islands
In Kefalonia and the rest of the Eptanisa islands, on New Year’s eve, people walk around holding bottles of cologne and dousing each other singing: «We came with roses and flowers to wish you many returns». The last wish they exchange before the end of the year is: «Happy cut-off», which means letting go of the year gone by. On New Year’s day, the municipal band comes around everyone’s house, singing carols and «kantades», which are traditional songs of the region.